Catholic League field hockey

By John Knebels
Sports Columnist

Any time the sports calendar says “Archbishop Carroll vs. Cardinal O’Hara,” it takes on more significance for those associated with those two schools.

Doesn’t really matter what sport, or how the teams are doing in the standings, or where the contest is being played. Fans from both Catholic League institutions often come in droves to attend a rivalry that started in the old “Southern spanision” and has remained so despite being different class selections in the PIAA tournaments.

So perhaps that explains why Archbishop Carroll’s field hockey team reacted that much more fanatically when the horn sounded to end its 2-1 Catholic League championship victory over O’Hara Nov. 3 at Neumann University. {{more}}

Add to the equation that O’Hara had defeated the Patriots 1-0 in double overtime during the regular season and had entered the final undefeated at 16-0-1 … you get the picture.

“Even though they are a great team and beat us earlier, we really wanted to play O’Hara in the finals,” said Carroll junior Maddy Lesher. “We came into the game expecting to win.”

Lesher and Carroll coach Suzie Gennaro both agreed that scoring the game’s first goal could prove pivotal, especially considering that O’Hara had shut out 14 opponents and only surrendered three goals in its last 16 games – and a miniscule six for the entire season.

Bringing the pre-game script to life, Lesher took a pass from senior Maura Campbell and whacked a shot past the O’Hara defense just 3:25 into the game. O’Hara appeared more annoyed than flummoxed, probably figuring – for good reason considering its pedigree – that someone would tie the game before too long.

However, despite decent pressure on Carroll’s defense and sophomore goalie Rebecca Brosious, O’Hara could not execute.

Frustration turned to dread when Carroll sophomore Megan Kelly converted a corner pass from Rachael Brosious into a goal with less than 10 minutes remaining. Now trailing 2-0, O’Hara threw caution to the wind and peppered Carroll’s defense with significant pressure.

After the Lions finally solved the Carroll puzzle on a goal by senior Courtney Rowe, the Patriots had less than one minute to stave off their archrivals and win a game that will forever be etched as a championship classic.

When the final seconds evaporated, Carroll’s players raced to the sideline in glee while several O’Hara players stood dejected in seeming disbelief. After the game, O’Hara coach Marie Murphy reminded her players how proud she was of their effort.

Gennaro did the same. In particular, she lauded the Patriots’ stingy defense against a determined opponent. Gennaro also complimented Carroll’s four seniors for their leadership, which was largely responsible when, four days later, the Patriots shellacked George Washington High School 10-1 in the District 12 championship that earned them a trip to the PIAA Class AAA state tournament.

But the Catholic League championship meant even more.

“We were focused from the very beginning,” Gennaro said. “I didn’t have to tell them too much. They all knew what was at stake. … They knew that to win this game, they had to leave everything on the field.”

Unfortunately for O’Hara, that is precisely what Carroll did.

John Knebels can be reached at